Rocky was about to open in theaters but, to that point, it had garnered minimal attention. As a subscriber to the Writers Guild Film Society, with absolutely no awareness of what I was about to see, I drove to the Writers Guild Theater to check out this totally untouted new film.
With some conspicuous exceptions, writers are not particularly generous when it comes to praising the efforts of their competitors. (I’m writing this in the third person to avoid self-incrimination.) This generosity evaporates entirely when professional writers are confronted by the work of a writer who is also an actor, in the case of Rocky, the actual star of the movie.
“How dare an actor write,” is basically their position. “That’s our job.” Plus, actors are good looking and they get girls. Isn’t that enough for them?
I arrive at the Rocky screening. The theater is half full. Mostly men. It’s a boxing movie. The ladies have given the picture a “pass.”
The lights go down, the movie begins. The first thing you see is the giant word, Rocky, lumbering slowly across the screen, accompanied by a trumpeting fanfare, more appropriate for the entrance of a Roman emperor.
Groans from the audience. “Cheap and cheesy. We’re going to hate this. Our ladies will taunt us when we get home.”
I will spare you going through every beat of the movie. Suffice it to say, it completely wins them over. By the climactic fight scene, jaded writers are standing on their seats, screaming their lungs out for Rocky to go the distance, and even – dare we dream it – win!
The movie ends. The audience goes nuts! The word “pandemonium” would not be out of place. The chandeliers are shaking.
And not just applause. There is cheering in the room. You can hear the unmistakable word, “Hooray!”
An old-time “crowd pleaser” has captured these flinty writers’ hearts.
Here comes the “Hollywood Moment.”
The theater doors open. And as the still-excited writers head up the aisle, they see, standing in the lobby, dressed in black jeans and a white, cable knit turtleneck sweater…
The “Italian Stallion” himself. Basking in what looks like a streaking aura of illuminating light. It was almost Celestial. Not to mention surreal.
It’s the guy! Right there in the lobby! Allowing virtually speechless writers to pump his hand, and nodding “Thank you”, with the unforced humility of the character we had just seen him portray.
It was “Goosebumps”, I tell ya.